Body of Christ, Body of Earth
A Sermon for the Plymouth Church of Framingham, UCC
April 28, 2019
Rev. Reebee Girash
19When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews [Jewish authorities]*, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 20After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”22When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” 24But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.25So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”
26A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” 28Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”30Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 31But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.
*Historically more accurate and appropriate than “the Jews,” see note from Mary Luti used in Holy Week bulletins.
The moment I saw the text for today and connected it with our Earth Day theme,
I knew I’d preach on the visible wounds of Christ,
metaphorically relating to the visible wounds the earth is suffering in climate change.
For surely the wounds of the earth are deep, and critical.
I thought I’d preach on how some of us still don’t believe in climate change,
how Millenials have believed in it since they were in grade school;
how we must all believe.
But it turns out, with few exceptions,
we, old and young, rich and poor, North American, Central American, European, African,
we believe in the wounds of the earth,
suffered from climate change,
caused by human beings burning fossil fuels.
We believe because we have seen:
Cyclone Idai created an inland ocean in Mozambique a few weeks ago,
and now we are seeing Cyclone Kenneth, in the same region. (https://www.cnn.com/2019/04/24/africa/storm-kenneth-mozambique-intl/index.html)
Hurricanes Maria, Michael, Harvey, Irene, Sandy, Florence, we are running out of names.
The Coral Reefs are bleaching,
Greenland’s ice is melting,
California keeps burning,
and the refugees and asylum seekers at our southern border flee not just gangs but devastated farmland. ( https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/apr/06/us-mexico-immigration-climate-change-migration )
So it is not that we don’t believe
he was wounded –
The earth is wounded
He was crucified
The earth is being crucified.
We believe. We have no doubt. We have seen the wounds with our own eyes.
Here is what some of us don’t believe.
We don’t believe he could come back from that.
We don’t believe the earth can survive these wounds.
We don’t believe in the possibility of the resurrection
Of the Earth
Some of us have begun to despair.
I have been in this climate action movement for over a decade, but a couple of years ago I dialed back a lot. Not completely, but my attention was drawn away by other social action causes, and my spirit was impacted by the constant barrage of discouraging climate news. One of the hardest facts out there is this: UN climate scientists tell us we have just under a dozen years to radically reduce fossil fuel use in order to avert climate catastrophe. ( https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/oct/08/global-warming-must-not-exceed-15c-warns-landmark-un-report ) And given the lack of global action on climate, it’s hard to believe we could pull together that fast.
It’s hard to believe.
Which is why the prophetic work of the next generation of climate leaders is so profound and so important.
Because they believe.
They operate from the belief that we can avert the worst catastrophes.
They cast a vision of a humanity that will mitigate, repair and adapt.
They can imagine a just transition for all workers; a society that is equitable and sustainable and fair.
They can see before them a wounded, scarred, and resurrected earth.
Kiran Oommen is one of this next generation of prophets. In his early 20s, he’s a musician and sociologist, a gardener and an organizer. His mother is a UCC pastor, so you know he was raised right. He is a plaintiff in Juliana vs. the United States – otherwise known as the Our Children’s Trust lawsuit. Standing in the traditions of civil and human rights, these next generation folks from 11 to 22 years old are calling our government to be accountable and our country to believe it is possible for the current generation to leave an inhabitable world for the next seven generations. Kiran’s mother Rev. Melanie Oommen asks, “What does it look like to live hope when the very fate of our planet is at stake? How do we enflesh the Easter Christ who triumphed over death itself in such a time as this?…Our God abides. In the enduring hope of those young plaintiffs, our God abides.” ( http://www.ucc.org/god_s_abiding_presence_in_the_prophetic_action_21_young_people )
Melody Zhang is one of this next generation of believers. She testified before Congress this month, as a representative of Young Evangelicals for Climate Action, drawing deeply from her Christian faith to call for action. I want to share some of her words:
“As a Christian, I believe God calls us to a total and radical re-imagination and transformation of our relationship with others and the earth…It takes courage, and the creativity, energy, and moral leadership of young people like us. Congress, I invite you to dream beyond this deep-rooted history of partisanship into co-creating a world of wholeness together. To my fellow believers in the room, we live in the era of the resurrected Christ. So then. Let us practice resurrection.” ( https://www.yecaction.org/melody_zhang_testifies )
Greta Thunberg is one of this next generation of prophets. This 16 year old from Sweden is perhaps the most prophetic voice on climate in the world, calling us to determined action and leading thousands of teens – including Framingham High students – to strike for climate action. She told the UN: “We can’t solve a crisis without treating it as a crisis…We have come here to let you know that change is coming, whether you like it or not.” ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VFkQSGyeCWg )
I could speak, by the way, as much about activist retirees as about activist teens – for example my friend Grady is a co-founder of Elders Climate Action and he operates with the same sense of urgency and defiant hope.
They can see before them a wounded, scarred, and resurrected earth.
Can you see it, too?
Can you imagine?
Or do you doubt?
Doubting resurrection is understandable in the face of crucifixion. Doubting that we can hold to two degrees celsius temperature change is understandable given that we are past one degree already. Needing to see him, needing to hear him say, Peace, needing to feel his breath in a repeating of God’s own breath across the waters of creation, needing to touch the wounds, it’s understandable.
He came to them in a locked room. To a group gathered in grief and fear, he offered peace. He offered them the Spirit. He breathed upon them. In the beginning, and in the end, the word and breath of God; the word made flesh; the peace which surpasses all understanding, the wounded and risen Word came to them, through locked doors.
But Thomas wasn’t there.
So he doubted. We can understand why.
We see the news reports. We collect relief buckets for Church World Service, knowing the next disaster is coming.
Friends, there are believers and prophets in front of us, casting a vision of a world – not where climate change is miraculously reversed but a world renewed and healed, a world still living and livable, even with wounds and scars. They know the world isn’t going back – but they are pushing us forward, in defiant and active hope. ( Defiant Hope – a phrase often used by Jim Antal; Active Hope – a phrase coined by Joanna Macy. )
And this is our work, as Easter people. We must choose to practice resurrection. Hope is the blessing our faith brings to the world. We know, as Easter people, that the worst thing is never the last thing. It’s hard to believe. It’s easy to doubt. But we do not have to look far to see prophets and believers who have called us to join them.
Our call, I fervently believe, is to join these prophets and believers, even when we doubt, because the time is now, to begin to heal the wounds of the earth; to practice resurrection.
Jim Antal, UCC minister and climate activist, wrote a book last year called Climate Church, Climate World. Within its pages he gave an invitation:
“For hope to take hold, the church must cultivate moral imagination….We need to believe that the transition to a world free of fossil fuel is possible.” He goes on to quote Desmond Tutu: ‘It is possible to have a new kind of world, a world where there will be more compassion, more gentleness, more caring, more laughter, more joy for all of God’s creation, because that is God’s dream. And God says, ‘Help me, help me, help me realize my dream.’” ( Climate Church, Climate World by Jim Antal, page 168 )